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2015-02-17

Cold shots

Not quite the North West Passage, but our club's basin would be completely frozen over were it not for the "bubbler"-type activities of clustered ducks.
Nature is no respecter of my refit schedule, it appears. It's been an appallingly cold winter (yes, even by Canadian standards), and opportunities to continue with boat fixing have been distressingly few. I went down to Alchemy yesterday by bicycle (the roads being dry and me having longjohns) to get a couple of hours of battery charging in. I was concerned that at several weeks between charges (the only draw is the LED of the pump switch, in case...ha!...I had a lot of wind-driven rainwater come in), the single Group 24 start battery I have aboard might undergo a phase transition to fully solid. This has been the case with some bottles of pop on my enclosed porch: even the leaky Victorian brickwork has been insufficient to keep outside temperatures of -25C at bay.

A quick inspection showed the battery unburst and, of more import, no signs of the antifreeze with which I winterize the engine bursting out from, say, the seams of the diesel. The lowest temperature having been -25C, and most of the "pink stuff" RV-type plumbing grade antifreeze being rated for -50F/-46C, why should I have worried about that?
More than I need for even two boats, but if it's on sale, I have been known to buy two years' supply. The difference is applied to the rum budget in order to avoid budget rum.
Well, it happens that I have heard a rumour that the -50F pink plumbing antifreeze sold by the local-to-me West Marine (before it went, as predicted last November, belly-up in January) was, in fact, freezing at -20C. A diesel mechanic reported this to my usually reliable source. Now, I may have used this stuff on either, or both boats: I tend to have half-bottles here and there left over. I don't dilute the stuff: the engine cooling circuits on Valiente (raw-water or "open") and Alchemy (closed with heat exchanger) get full strength, and the "block" cooling circuit in Alchemy is full of undiluted Prestone DEX (good to -84F, which is a brisk day on Mars). So I'm not super worried, but it is indicative of a bad quality control issue if it's true that could, potentially, seriously damage a lot of boats. Most owners do not regularly visit their boats in the dead of winter; I was certainly alone in the boat yard yesterday, and burst blocks or split hoses are not what one would wish to learn about when, on a fresh day in April, it's time to pull the plastic off. In addition, some older and/or wealthier and/or mechanically disinclined boat owners have the process of "winterization" contracted out to services or diesel mechanics, which is not only too rich for my blood, but is not the sort of job I would tend to farm out, having heard of horror stories and half-assery in the past.
Guess what can break a push-broom? This snow can break a push-broom.
I have yet to haul my Honda genset down to Valiente. We'll see if there's an issue when I do. It's important to make time and do correct prep in the boating game.

6 comments:

Bill K said...

The pink stuff is rated differently.
It is rated to -50° burst point.
( which means when what ever container they were using burst or splits or breaks )

It will always freeze before it's rated temp.

Bill Kelleher

Rhys said...

Good to know, Bill. Given the anxiety prevailing at the moment, I think I will switch to the green toxic, -84F stuff and just be more careful with the bucket at recommissioning time.

Thanks.

Horatio Marteleira said...

I went to a local car parts shop to get some pink stuff to change the boat engine's cooling liquid.
Two years ago I used pink glycogel organic. Since I still have some left over, I wanted to make sure I got the same type.
The car shop had pink liquid containers that didn't specify the contents.
So I did some research to see if they were all the same and read that pink antifreeze may be harmful for older engines since it can damage the gaskets and seals which were made of different materials back then (no specific date).
And I really like the pink stuff because it made the engine run cooler - maybe too cool.
Horatio Marteleira

Rhys said...

Hello, Horatio, nice to read you here again.

We are talking about two different things here, but as I recall, you've lived in Canada so I'm sure you will understand. The "pink stuff" to which I'm referring is propylene glycol, which is often also called "plumbing antifreeze" or "RV (recreational vehicle)antifreeze. It is meant to fill plumbing lines from which most of the water has already been displaced in order to lower the freezing point of any remaining water so that pipes do not burst in the winter. It's consequently found in Canadian cottages and on boats in the raw water (open to the sea) circuit.

Using it is probably not necessary in Portugal because the temperature so rarely falls below zero degrees C. there. If you hauled out in winter and had a cold snap, it would only be necessarily to blow the water out of your plumbing (head and galley hoses, etc.), but if you stay in the sea 12 months of the year, as is possible in Portugal, this is not really a big concern.

For engine cooling in a closed circuit, that is, an engine with a heat exchanger, one uses a different coolant that is specified for the high temperatures that engine produce. That's the difference between an antifreeze and a coolant...one is supposed to lower the temperature at which residual water freezes (meaning it doesn't expand and burst the engine passages), and the other resists boiling beyond that of the boiling temperature of water, meaning you get greater transport of engine heat to the second, raw or sea water circuit that mixes with the exhaust and exits the boat. Engine coolant is usually ethylene glycol, which should never be used in plumbing or drinking water systems as it's quite toxic. It is, however, the best choice for closed cooling circuits in engines, and I think you should change out the "pink stuff" for blue or green or purple (ethylene glycol comes in different formulations) and save it for the very rare time when conditions are freezing in your part of Portugal, or if you are putting your boat on land over the winter and want to feel secure. This article gives an overview of the topic (http://www.practical-sailor.com/blog/The-Cold-Case-of-the-Frozen-Antifreeze-11331-1.html). For the record, in my newly installed diesel, I use this: (http://ca.prestone.com/enca/prestone_dex_cool_longlife_antifreeze/coolant). So far, so good.

Horatio Marteleira said...

Thanks for the explanation.
I didn't realize the pink stuff you are using is for winterizing pipes. My brother winterized my engine the two years I had the boat in Port Dover.
The pink stuff I got is definitively antifreeze for car radiators - the label says so. Heck, nobody needs the winterizing stuff over here, except far inland or in the mountains. Near the ocean, a light frost on the ground will have everyone fainting with fear that an ice age is approaching.
The problem is that so far I have only found green or pink antifreeze: pink is a modern formulation and strong, green is old technology and weak. I guess I'll have to go back to green for fear of damaging the seals on my fantastic 1982 Kubota with only about 1,200 hours.
Have a happy, warm spring. I hated winter in Canada, loved just about everything else though.

Rhys said...

Horatio, in terms of weather, you've chosen wisely. We've just broken records for horribleness: http://www.thestar.com/news/starweather/2015/03/it-s-official-february-was-toronto-s-coldest-month-ever.html